For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
Rebellious? Indifferent? Antagonistic? Whatever words could be used to describe Charlotte Digges Moon and her relationship to Christianity through her early life stand in deep contrast to words like faithful and dedicated that characterize the majority of her life.
Lottie was born on Dec. 12, 1840 in Albemarle County, Virginia to a Baptist father and a Presbyterian mother. Depending on which account of her life you read, she was either completely indifferent to Christianity or outright rebellious, attending church services just to make fun of the sermon.
According to one story, Lottie went to a service in December 1858, and couldn’t find a single thing to laugh at. Thinking over it that night, she realized that her objections based on having seen Christians argue with each other when she was a little girl held no merit. She dedicated her life to Christ, and it would appear she never looked back.
She attended Albemarle Female Institute, and was one of the first women in the South to receive a master’s degree. She taught at schools in a couple of states before finally being permitted by the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board to become a missionary to China in 1872.
Moon served there for the next 40 years. First, she served as a teacher, but soon started traveling the countryside teaching women in their homes as an evangelist. She’s said to have traveled more than 10,000 square miles in her effort to share the gospel.
Naturally, a woman so adventurous as to travel in a strange land on her own would have no hesitation in confronting her church leaders, as she did on the role of women as missionaries and on the disconnect between sending missionaries to Africa while oppressing African-Americans at home. Lottie also had no qualms about writing to churches back home to encourage them to support missionary work.
Traditionally, the story of her death has been connected to her dedication to her work. As the story goes, she chose to give up her food to support famine relief. A missionary nurse was bringing her home when she died while onboard a ship in Kobe, Japan on Dec. 24, 1912.
More recent scholarship, however, has suggested a much different story. Missionaries who visited Lottie beginning as early as September 1912 found Lottie to seem troubled, and eventually unable to care for herself. A doctor found a flesh-eating boil behind her ear and believe that it had injured her spinal cord, causing her to show signs of dementia. The decision was then made to send her to the United States for treatment.
Whichever story is fact, one truth remains.
Lottie had a profound impact on the church in China that echoes into modern times.
A man whom she led to Christ became an evangelist himself, and baptized more than 10,000 people. Two churches that she assisted are still in existence. As recently as May 2006, a new building was dedicated for the church that had formed from about 30 village churches in the region in which Lottie worked. And, a woman who traces her family back to one of Lottie’s converts was a pastor of the church.
All of this came from a woman who, at best, was indifferent to Christ as she was growing up.
This should be an encouragement to us that no one is so far from God that she can’t find new life in Christ, and find new purpose in serving him.
Is there a woman in your life who is indifferent to Christ? How can you make him real to her?
This is the 21st post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.